I debated whether I should scream at them not to hurt me because I had cancer.
Albuquerque Journalist Franchesca Stevens is undergoing her second bout with cancer. She writes occasionally about her journey and emotions in dealing with the disease.
BY FRANCHESCA STEVENS
I started looking at the world a little differently today after I met with my radiation oncologist.
She told me that I will need 10 treatments to my spine (from the front going through my abdomen and through the back) and that afterwards, there was a slight chance I would be paralyzed. She said she’s never seen that happen but that it’s possible.
After I left her office, I was driving northbound on I-25 near Paseo del Norte, thinking about what she said barely an hour ago, and I looked at the beautiful sky and wondered what it’d be like to be paralyzed.
I thought, “I should enjoy today because at least I can walk and drive and get around on my own.” It was a scary thought and it made me think how much we all take for granted when are bodies are working well.
Ten radiation treatments! My medical oncologist had told me it would be about two.
This was more than I expected. I underwent 16 last year when they treated me for the first time for breast cancer. Darn. I thought I was going to get off really easy on this go around.
The treatments will start next week. Every weekday for 10 days. They told me I can expect to be tired and that I may experience nausea and/or vomiting. Darn again.
I wasn’t warned about those possible side effects the first time I did this. But, back then, they weren’t targeting the spine — only one breast. I don’t like this at all. I’m just going to have to get through it and hope for the best.
I remember, last year, talking to one of the schedulers at the Lovelace Breast Center who had to be treated three separate times for cancer in her life. She told me how happy her life is now. I couldn’t believe how well she dealt with so much suffering — emotionally and physically.
I think I’ll call her next week and let her know that I’m now running a close second to her experience! This really sucks. How can you explain any of it? I guess you can’t. You just deal with it and roll with the punches. What I have learned, though, is it can always be worse.
My editor says there’s no rhyme or reason to anything that happens in life. Maybe he’s right.
He just hopes that if there is life after death or reincarnation, he comes back as something cool and not something as lowly as, say, a stinkbug.
I often see a stinkbug or two on my path in the evenings when I walk my dog in the foothills of the Sandias. It’s interesting to think if my editor is right about all this, I might end up a stinkbug.
May 24, 2017
I couldn’t believe I started crying. It just happened.
One minute I was nonchalant about starting another round of radiation therapy for cancer and the next minute I got emotional and sad, and well, scared.
It just seemed almost surreal to be lying under that big gray metal machine again. Wearing the light blue hospital gown again. Arms stretched over my head again. Trying not to move again.
I’m a grownup. I should be able to handle things better. The tears only lasted a few minutes. I wasn’t in any kind of physical pain. I was just reminded that I had already been through this before and never thought I would be here again. I am grateful for the care. I’m aware things could be worse.
Today was the first of 10 radiation treatments for my breast cancer that has come back — this time in some of my bones. They will occur each weekday for two weeks — each taking about half an hour. Maybe this will be the easiest part of the whole shebang.
From now until I don’t know when, I will go to the medical oncologist’s office once a month for a 30-minute “infusion” or IV of meds that are supposed to keep my cancer from spreading further. I will also get two shots that are meant to keep my bones from deteriorating.
Information online says my condition can no longer be cured, just controlled. It’s something I will have to treat for the rest of my life. This really sucks. Sometimes I feel like giving up.
I mean, enough is enough. I have been the proverbial “good girl” all my life. I never smoked, rarely drank, never did drugs (except smoking pot in college), or cheated on my husband. I made good grades in school, was the first in my family to graduate college, and I’m always the designated driver.
Editors can relate to this: I also always made deadline. I have been an honest journalist for more than 20 years in TV, radio and print. I even interviewed Mother Teresa.
But these past three years have been pretty rough. I lost a great, full-time job with Bernalillo County in 2013 after being there for seven years. My car was stolen three times. I was a hostage in a deadly coin store robbery where I was told to lie on the floor and keep my head down while two men broke all the glass showcases, continually tasered the owner, and tried to get out by hitting the locked front door with a sledgehammer while one of them was shot in the back.
I later told the detective that it looked like a bloodbath when I was in there. It had happened on a beautiful, sunny, Saturday morning two days before I was supposed to have my first chemotherapy treatment.
And as I laid on the floor all I could think is that I won’t be making it to chemo because one of the thieves was going to put a gun to my head and that would be the end of me.
I debated whether I should scream at them not to hurt me because I had cancer, but it didn’t seem like it would have made any difference.
I went on and got cancer a second time, and now because I can’t find work, I am facing bankruptcy and possibly losing my home.
I have also learned to never be surprised by the reactions some people have when they find out you have cancer. One co-worker from back in the 1970s said I must have done something really bad to deserve all this and he wanted to know what it was? Another person told me that if I think I don’t have cancer, I won’t — that you can just wish it away.
I think the vast majority of people really don’t know what to say when they find out, though. Because what is there to say that can explain it anyway? Why her and not him? I don’t for the life of me know the answer to that one.
Franchesca Stevens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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